Amsterdam Nightlife: Experiencing Amsterdam's Nights to the Fullest
Despite Amsterdam being one of the smallest European capitals, Amsterdam nightlife is very diverse and it has a lively cultural sector. The atmosphere in Amsterdam nightlife is generally relaxed and friendly. Dress codes are less strict than elsewhere in Europe.
Even in classical concert halls or top-end restaurants, you won't get funny looks if you're casually dressed, though some of the hippest night clubs in Amsterdam still have their door policies.
Brown Cafes (pubs) are a typical Amsterdam thing: folksy pubs that act as second living rooms for the neighborhood locals. This is how many ordinary Amsterdammers like to spend their Amsterdam nightlife. The brown refers to lots of dark brown wood and many years of cigarette smoke (though since 2008, smoking has been banned in bars, hotels etc.).
Some of the best are Café 't Smalle (Egelantiersgracht 12), De Prins (Prinsengracht 124), Café Sluyswacht (Jodenbreestraat 1) and Café Nol (Westerstraat 109).
There are hundreds and hundreds of Amsterdam restaurants. Many have great food and atmosphere, although foreigners - depending on what they're used to at home - sometimes complain about high prices and suboptimal service.
The Supperclub (Jonge Roelenstraat 21) is actually a mix between restaurant, club and theatre (with emphasis on the first), and you eat while lying on large couches. George is an excellent (and expensive) restaurant where the trendy are eager to be seen.
De Jaren (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22) - half grand cafe, half restaurant - is a large place with lots of newspapers and a delicious terrace overlooking the water.
For a relatively small city, Amsterdam's night clubs are plenty and quite diverse. They are about the only places with dress codes and door policies in Amsterdam (though not all have them).
Bitterzoet (Spuistraat 2) and Jimmy Woo (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 18) are very hip, while Club Home (Wagenstraat 3) and Dansen Bij Jansen (Handboogstraat 11) are the most relaxed.
The Escape (Rembrandtplein 11) is the most famous and flashy and the Powerzone (Spaklerweg) is the biggest club of Amsterdam.
Find more tips on our Amsterdam clubs page. Amsterdam clubs are usually open to 4am on weekdays (if they're open then) and 5am on Sat & Sun.
Paradiso (Weteringschans 6-8) and the Melkweg (Lijnbaansgracht 234) are the principal concert halls to see both coming and established bands of all modern music styles. Big and famous acts often perform in the Heineken Music Hall.
If you're into small bars with live music, check out Alto (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115) for jazz, and Bourbon Street (Leidsekruisstraat 6) for blues.
The principal concert halls for ensembles and classical music are the Concertgebouw, the Muziekgebouw aan't IJ (overlooking the IJ water), the Muziektheater (Waterlooplein 22, inside the Stopera) and Carré (Amstel 115-125).
Coffee shop Happy Feelings
"Coffee shops" may or may not serve coffee - but you can legally buy and smoke marihuana and hash right here. Some Amsterdam coffee shops stay open until 2 or 3am.
However, the tobacco smoking ban for restaurants, cafes etc. means that you can only smoke marihuana without tobacco. Tobacco is bad for your health, you see...
Since water pipes and vaporizers allow cannabis smoking without tobacco, their sales have shot up since the introduction of the tobacco smoking ban.
My own favorite cinema is the centrally located Pathé Tuschinski (Reguliersbreestraat 26-34). It was completed in 1921 in a mixture of Jugenstil and art deco style.
Pathe de Munt (Vijzelstraat 15, just around the corner from Tuschinski) and Pathé Arena (the biggest Amsterdam cinema) are also good movie theaters that all cater to a large audience. Pathé City (Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 15-19) is temporarily closed while it's changing over from mass market to arthouse movies.
Among our favorite smaller, alternative movie theaters are the Filmmuseum, beautifully located in the Vondelpark; The Movies (Haarlemmerdijk 161-163) where you can also have dinner, and Kriterion (Roetersstraat 170) which, as the only Amsterdam cinema, also has a café for socializing after your movie.
Movies are always shown in their original language with Dutch subtitles (both in cinemas and on Dutch TV).
Red Light District
The Wallen (red light district)
The action in the Red Light District goes on until deep into the night. In fact, after dark is the best time to go since it's much busier then and the red lights create a very special atmosphere then.
Even at night, this area isn't any less safe than the rest of the city. Besides the windows, you can also visit sex theaters and sex shops to see this side of Amsterdam nightlife.
There's a lot of theater going on in Amsterdam, but only a small part is in English. English-language theater groups often visit Amsterdam in the summer. Check out the Amsterdamse Uitbureau (AUB) and the UITagenda to hear what's on.
One theater group with English-language performances only, is Boom Chicago (Leidseplein 12), bringing you an improvisational comedy and social commentary.
Holland Casino, Amsterdam
Gambling is not very popular in the Netherlands - apparently the Dutch are too Calvinist for that. There's only one legal (state owned) casino chain, Holland Casino, and the only Amsterdam branch is located at Max Euweplein 62. Just outside Amsterdam, there's a branch at Schiphol Airport.
Some companies also organize fun evening tours, like the Amsterdam Bar Tour which takes you past the famous brown cafes of Amsterdam, boat dinner tours that combine a dinner evening with a canal cruise, or the Wallen tours that take through the Red Light District. It's a great way to get to know Amsterdam nightlife. Ask at your hotel desk.
Recently, the government banned smoking in all clubs, bars and restaurants, except in closed smoking rooms where you will not be served by staff. It has had a large impact on Amsterdam nightlife: some small pubs barely survive and try to fight the ban legally and politically.
- More about Amsterdam clubs
- Our favorite Amsterdam cafes
- Amsterdam pub guide: best beer cafes and 'tasting houses'
- Amsterdam culture: tips for going out
- The Amsterdam red light district: overview
- Top things to do in Amsterdam
- Back from Amsterdam Nightlife to Amsterdam Advisor